Air Products held a groundbreaking ceremony at Covestro’s Baytown, Texas facility where Air Products will invest $350-$400 million to build, own and operate a world-scale steam methane reformer (SMR).

The SMR will produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide (CO) to be supplied to Covestro and other customers linked to Air Products’ Gulf Coast Hydrogen and CO Pipeline Networks. The plant, which will start-up in 2018, is already completely sold out.

“We have worked with Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience) for decades and look forward to being an important industrial gas supplier to them in Baytown for many more years to come. The new SMR strengthens Air Products’ position in the Texas carbon monoxide (CO) market and enhances our well established hydrogen supply network,” said Corning Painter, executive vice president, Industrial Gases at Air Products.

The SMR and cold box will be located on land leased from Covestro, a world-leading manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials for key industries, headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. The SMR will produce approximately 125 million standard cubic feet per day of hydrogen and a world-scale supply of carbon monoxide. Covestro products and application solutions are nearly everywhere in modern life. With its innovative strength, Covestro is constantly coming up with new developments that benefit society and the environment.

Largest plant in North and Central America

“Safe, reliable and efficient operations through our people remains extremely important at Covestro. We continually develop our people to improve safety and respect the environment, as well as optimize our processes to improve our yields to top levels in industry, which means less raw materials, less waste and higher efficiencies,” said Dr. Klaus Schäfer, Covestro’s Chief Industrial Operations Officer. “Covestro’s alignment with Air Products will further improve our Baytown site’s reliable supply to our valued customers.”

Covestro’s Baytown facility, its largest plant in North and Central America, was established in 1971 and employs a workforce of 1,100 with an additional 750 contractors. Covestro’s primary products at its Baytown site include toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and methylene diphenylene isocyanates (MDI), in addition to coatings and adhesives, inorganic basic chemicals, polycarbonates, and polyurethanes. It is a leading supplier of high-value polymers and innovative solutions for key sectors such as transportation, construction, electronics, furniture, sports equipment and textiles.

The new SMR will be built through the global hydrogen alliance between Air Products and Technip, a world leader in project management, engineering and construction. The plant will feature the latest technology to maximize energy efficiency and reduce emissions, and will include optimal heat integration, which in turn lowers feedstock consumption. The plant configuration and deployed technologies support Air Products’ overall sustainability goals of reducing energy consumption and emissions.

On the pipeline

For over 20 years the Air Products and Technip global alliance has provided the worldwide refining industry with competitive technology and world-class safety. The alliance is responsible for over 35 hydrogen production plants located in 11 countries around the world and produces well over two billion standard cubic feet of hydrogen per day for clean fuels production. Technip provides the design and construction expertise for steam reformers while Air Products provides the gas separation technology. Air Products, through its extensive operating network, and Technip, from its large reference base, also bring effective operational and engineering knowledge to “design-in” high reliability and efficiency. The plants are operated and maintained by Air Products under long-term agreements with customers.

Painter also added that the ability for the new plant to connect to Air Products’ existing Gulf Coast Pipeline (GCP), the world’s largest hydrogen plant and pipeline network system, remains a value-added plus for hydrogen customers in terms of ensuring product reliability. Air Products officially dedicated its GCP in 2012. The 600-mile pipeline span stretches from the Houston Ship Channel in Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana, and supplies customers with over 1.4 billion feet of hydrogen per day from over 22 hydrogen production facilities.